Saturday, July 15, 2017
“Those we love never truly leave us. There are things that death cannot touch.” — J.K. Rowling (this gives me some comfort)
Back when I was in seminary at Boston University, there was a woman who hated me. Hated me for all of her three years there. Hated me so much that she spread lies about me, stole things from me, and destroyed a term paper I was about to give to my professor. I never understood why, until the week before she graduated. To my astonishment, she invited me to lunch—to apologize, she said, so I went. Right before she began her three years of seminary, her husband of one year was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and died within six weeks. When I came to the University, she discovered that I had had the exact same diagnosis with the exact same prognosis, except that I lived. She apologized profusely for all the things she had felt, said, and done and explained that they were all driven by grief. She had hated me because I had lived and her new husband had died. Over the course of her three years, she came to know that her husband was with Christ and that if she could not forgive me, she would never know His comfort. I forgave her, of course, and thought about how strange life can be at times.
Now, I find myself overwhelmed by survivor’s guilt—that guilt that comes from surviving a disease that kills others but spares you. I didn’t feel guilty at all in the case of the woman who hated me because I never knew her husband and could hardly have felt any warmth toward a woman who disliked me so much. Now, though, I find that a good friend, a man I admire and respect, a man who has had so much to do with our mission here and with saving thousands of lives here is very, very sick. He is on a feeding tube, can take no more chemo therapy, and is being moved to a long term medical facility. He and I, like the lady’s husband, have the same diagnosis and had the same prognosis. The difference is that while I may have suffered for a while, I got better, I survived and am doing well while my friend is not. I am grieving for him now and for his lovely wife who also had a big impact on our mission here. I am sad that I cannot be there to offer what support I can or to just to sit and be there. I now know what many thousands of others know—when you survive and good people don’t from the same event, you may feel a different kind of grief to add to the grief you already feel. I don’t like it, but I don’t know how to deal with it, either. I am praying for my friend and his wife all the time—that much I do know how to do. What I don’t know how to do is to deal with this feeling that something I did was somehow to blame even though all my intellect and logic knows that this is not true. I do know to put all this in the hands of God, who does know what to do. I am also asking for prayers for my friend, for his wife, and for me even though I don’t deserve them—but I need them. Life is like that sometimes.